In the early stages of drafting As Weekends Go, I gobbled up every nugget of writerly advice going – I still do – you never stop learning and any guidance is invaluable.
I’d already created detailed profiles for each of my main characters, some secondary characters too, i.e. ages, physical descriptions, family backgrounds, schooling, jobs, habits, likes/dislikes, friendships, relationships, star signs. A further suggested exercise that proved brilliant for me was “literally” interviewing them. Instead of writing a structured Q&A for each, I let them chat away on the page (so to speak) to see how they viewed themselves, to hear their voices and obtain an insight into specific personality traits, hopes, values, etc.
Here’s a brief glimpse at two of the main cast members – random facts in no particular order – to further illustrate what I mean :
“Hi, I’m Rebecca Stafford, married to Greg for four years, no children as yet, but having now moved into our new home, we plan to start a family, which I’m so excited about. I just hope Greg’s workload reduces. He’s been so stressed lately – a bit snappy too, (between you and me) – and could really do with relaxing a bit more. I do worry about him.
I’d say I’m a good listener, diplomatically honest, as I hate to hurt people’s feelings. I’m quite a home bod, and I love the company of my friends and family, especially my best friend Abi who I’ve known for years. I dress in what suits me. I’m not a dedicated follower of fashion as they say, but I do take pride in my appearance.”
“Hello, I’m Alex Heath. Describe myself physically? Well, I’m very fit – in the sporty sense (I wasn’t being vain!) as my profession demands it. I’ve always been active, trained hard and appreciated all the challenges and rewards it brings. I’m not really into the celebrity thing and shy away from publicity even though I know it’s all part of the job. I think it’s important to stay grounded, have good friends and family around me and never forget what a privilege it is to be doing what I love.
I’m a good judge of character. Some people say I can be stubborn, (my mum, usually!) which maybe I am, but it helps me to focus on what’s important. Nobody likes being taken for a fool, do they? Do I like being rich? Well, it certainly has its advantages. I’d be a liar if I said otherwise, but I’m level-headed with money; prefer spending it on other people than myself.”
Now I know these exercises won’t necessarily be for everyone. Admittedly, a lot of the pre-interview detailed character profile information I didn’t actually use in the book, i.e. Rebecca’s favourite film or her opinion of her first boss, but it did give me an insight into how she might react in certain scenes, or to the various people she met, whatever the situation. Same with Alex. So too, with my other main characters.
I did the same thing for my second book which I’m currently writing. If you think interviewing your characters is something that might help you develop your own stories, then give it a try. I can definitely recommend it.
Love Jan x
10 thoughts on “Life Cycle of a Writer ~ Jan Brigden ~ Interviewing your Characters”
I LOVE this idea, Jan. I’ve done the Q&A thing with my characters but it can be a bit dry. Your example above lets the characters speak for themselves. I’m definitely going to try this.
Thanks so much, Sue. I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. Hopefully it’ll help rather than hinder – lol 🙂
A great idea, Jan. Thanks for the tip!
I can see how it would help.
Thank you, June. I’ve been doing it with the sequel too for my new characters. Appreciate your comment 🙂
Loving this idea. My characters ‘talk’ to me all the time and they suggest where the novel will take them. (at least, that’s what I tell my therapist). All joking aside, the better we know our characters, the more convincing our novels read. I know next to nothing about footballers and their lifestyle but I totally convinced by Alex (and Becky).ATM I am having an imaginary conversation between the heroine of my next novel, which takes place on a spiral stone staircase in a Scottish Castle. As you do. LOL>
Love it when you can hear their voices chatting away to you, Lizzie. I’m so pleased you believed in my characters – a relief to hear! Your 4th novel sounds intriguing 🙂 Thanks for commenting.
Fabulous post, love the idea! I have to confess to having long in-depth conversations with my characters. And not just me, the whole family gets involved at times, like those characters were well… you know. Real. Maybe we’re all collectively mad? LOL! Great post, Jan, thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Nicky. A woman after my own heart! I love the idea of you & the family all sitting round, chattering away 🙂 I often sit there, head bobbing from side to side whilst I’m weighing up the various character conversations. I’m glad you enjoyed reading my post.
Always interesting to see how other people write and it plainly works for you so keep doing it!
Thank you, Angela. Yes, as they say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it 🙂